Past Due: How Long Can Illinois Go Without A Budget?

Jun 24, 2016

July 1 will mark a shameful anniversary for Illinois -- it will mean the state has completed a full year without a complete budget. How long can this go on?

Credit nprillinois

  Bruce Rauner has been at the state's helm since last January, which means he'll be governor for at least another two and a half years. Democratic State Representative Lou Lang has remarked that it's possible that Illinois could go without a budget the entire length of Rauner's term.

"And the reason is not the Democratic Party; the reason is the governor's attitude about the budget. And the governor's attitude is that the budget is less important than his political agenda. That can't be, but yet it is," he said in May.

Lang says he doesn't want that. But, he says, it's possible given that roughly 90 percent of the state's regular spending continued for most of the year, due to court orders, piecemeal agreements, and laws that automatically trigger spending.

Recently, Crain's Business News reporters asked Rauner posed the question to the governor. Is it possible for Illinois to go four years without a budget?

No, Rauner answered, citing an unsustainable backlog of unpaid bills (already Illinois has racked up more than $8 billion it doesn't have the cash to pay).

So, they asked him: how long can we go?

"Nobody knows," he said.

"I didn't think we could go on this long," a reporter remarked. Rauner laughed, loudly, briefly.

"Honestly," the reporter pressed.

Most people didn't, Rauner he replied.